Published: June 7, 2021
A London, Ont., imam and advocates for Canada’s Muslim communities expressed their grief and called for concrete action following a deadly hit and run on Sunday that police say was a “premeditated” attack on a Muslim family of five.
“We don’t want people to be alienated and live in fear,” Munir El-Kassem, imam of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, told CBC’s Ginella Massa on Monday. “We’ve got to deal with hatred on the educational front, on the political front, on the social front.
“We’ve got to prevent this from ever happening again.”
El-Kassem said he spoke to relatives of the victims, whose names aren’t being released at this time at the request of family members. A 74-year-old woman, 46-year-old man, 44-year-old woman and 15-year-old girl were killed, while a nine-year-old boy remained in hospital with serious injuries, police said Monday.
Omar Khamissa, manager of community engagement at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called the incident “unfathomable” and “an immense tragedy.”
“Our hearts are broken, our minds are numb,” Khamissa told CBC News Network’s Andrew Nichols. “They were just out for a walk, just having a good time on a beautiful summer evening [when they were] run down by a car driven by a man who appeared to be filled with hate.
“Make no mistake about it, justice must and will be done for the situation.”
Memories of Quebec City, New Zealand attacks
A 20-year-old man was charged Monday with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder; terrorism charges are also possible against Nathaniel Veltman of London, Det.-Insp. Paul Waight said at a news conference.
Human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby said, for the Canadian Muslim community, it’s “absolutely shattering to go through this again,” referencing the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017 and the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
“It’s really quite heartbreaking to continuously have to go through and endure and imagine the families that have now to bury their loved ones,” she told Massa on Monday.
Elghawaby said she and her colleagues have been telling police services across Canada to take reports of hate crimes seriously, and that it’s “very important” to see the evidence that the killings were motivated by hate.
“We do need our public authorities to tell us and provide us the information, because the fear — that vacuum that we all sort of exist in once something like this happens where we don’t know what’s going on — is also very dangerous and very frightening.”
Elghawaby said the outpouring of love and support from fellow Canadians is deeply appreciated, while El-Kassem commended London Mayor Ed Holder for his support.
“I think he described it as it is: it’s a mass murder, it’s an act of terrorism, it’s an act that should be called for what it is,” El-Kassem said.
“This is Canada and we want to keep it a peaceful and loving country for our children.”
El-Kassem also shared a message that he and three other local imams sent out to the London community.
“We’ve got to bring our Islamic values, our Canadian values, put them into action and make sure that everybody is not reacting in a negative way, but rather to use this as an opportunity to work together to affect a real change that probably through the passing of these four individuals, we will be able to solve a major global problem,” he said.
“It’s OK to grieve and we have to grieve. And I have to tell you, I cried and many other members of the community leaders who were present this morning with the police and with the mayor, many of them cried because this is not something easy that we can take.”